Kurna (also GournaGurnaQurnaQurnah or Qurneh; Arabic: القرنة) are various spelling for a group of three closely related villages (New QurnaQurna and Sheikh ‘Adb el-Qurna) located on the West Bank of the River Nile opposite the modern city of Luxor in Egypt near the Theban Hills.

Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy designed and built New Qurna in the late 1940s and early 1950s to house people living in Qurna which is now uninhabited. New Qurna added to the 2010 World Monuments Watch List of Most Endangered Sites to bring attention to the site’s importance to modern town planning and vernacular architecture due to the loss of much of the original form of the village since it built.

The villages

Pottery tray with 8 compartments. Redware, rectangular. 11th Dynasty. From Kurna (Qurnah), Egypt. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London
Foundation tablet. It shows the cartouche of the birth name and epithet “Amenhotep, the god, the Ruler of Thebes”. 18th Dynasty. From Kurna, Egypt. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London

New Kurna (or New Gourna)

Street in New Gourna
Theater architectural drawing by Hassan Fathy
Old Qurna
Sheikh Abd el-Qurna

New Qurna was built between 1946 and 1952 by Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy midway between the Colossi of Memnon and el-Gezira on the Nile on the main road to the Theban Necropolis to house the residents of the Qurna. New Qurna served to relocate the villagers, but it also served to be an experiment. The goal was to make the low cost buildings, as well as environment friendly structures.

With Old Qurna, there was not many vegetation due to the difficulties in accessing water. New Qurna designed to improve on Old Qurna and solved problems such as difficulties in accessing water. New Qurna built near the Nile River resulting more in the use of vegetation. Due to the village not having any electricity, cooling and heating techniques were implemented within New Qurna. With the weather being warm, it would still feel cool within the houses. When the weather would be cool, the homes would stay warm.

The design, which combined traditional materials and techniques with modern principles was never completed and much of the fabric of the village has since been lost; all what remains today of the original New Qurna is the mosque, market and a few houses. UNESCO World Heritage conservation wishes to safeguard this important architectural site. The World Monuments Fund included New Qurna in the 2010 World Monuments Watch List of Most Endangered Sites.